TV Recap

Big Leads

Two strong singers win over the judges. During the second of the four semifinal rounds, Simon, Paula, and Randy are starting to make sense, says Michael Small

American Idol | BIG VOICE Ruben wowed the judges with an old Carpenters tune
Image credit: Ruben Studdard: J. Viles
BIG VOICE Ruben wowed the judges with an old Carpenters tune

Two strong singers win over the judges

Here's evidence that watching too much ''American Idol'' fries your brain like the egg in that anti-drug commercial:

First off, Ryan Seacrest -- he who was so odious during the entire first season -- is starting to seem sort of comfortable and pleasant in his role as host. It's hard to keep disliking him after his good-natured response to being squashed like a Reuben sandwich between Ruben Studdard and his big, big brother.

Meanwhile, even the judges' reactions are beginning to seem, well, appropriate. Sure, it's boring to watch Simon pretend to play the bad guy as Paula gushes over anyone who can emit a musical note and Randy addresses each singer with one of the 10 favorite words in his vocabulary, ''dude.'' Even so, Simon was right about the lack of excitement from the first five performers -- and he correctly noted the image problems of contestants like Clay Aiken, who's a swell singer but doesn't look like an idol, even after he streaked his hair and got rid of the granny glasses.

Ultimately, Randy and Paula were right too, when they gave a standing ovation to, literally, the two biggest talents: Ruben, representin' his flava from Birmingham with an old Carpenters standard, and Kimberley Locke, the Tennessee native who put law school on hold so she could sing ''Over the Rainbow'' for Simon, or at least pick a fight with him. There's no question that these two gave the best performances of the season, and -- proving that real pop stars do have curves, or at least bulk -- they should definitely make it to the final round. (Note: Kimberley loses points for trying to pick that phony '''you suck'' battle with Simon. But nobody's perfect.)

So what do you think of the judges' choices? Will Jacob John win over the public with his looks? Will Hadas, a.k.a. the Sandra Bullock clone, light up the life of ''Idol'' fans? Is there anyone else you're rooting for? Post your thoughts below -- we'll select the best comments and highlight them on the site this Thursday.

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Originally posted Feb 12, 2003